First 5 Alabama Partners With Zero To Three To Tackle Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
Alabama One of 19 States to Identify Strategies to Improve Mental Health Assessment and Treatment of Very Young Children
A team of leaders from First 5 Alabama, Alabama’s Association for
Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, will help to advance state policy related to social and
emotional health of babies and toddlers. It is estimated that between 9.5 percent and 14.2 percent
of children age birth to 5 experience an emotional or behavioral disturbance.
Following a competitive process, Alabama was selected to send representatives to the second
ZERO TO THREE Policy Center convening, which will build on the work first started in 2016.
The Alabama team will join with governmental agencies, advocacy organizations, and child- and
family-serving programs from 19 states and the District of Columbia for convening. The goal of
the ZERO TO THREE convening is to identify state strategies to align healthcare finance policy,
specifically Medicaid, with infant and early childhood mental health practice.
“We are thrilled to be selected this year to work with other leaders in infant and early childhood
mental health and ZERO TO THREE to advance the important work we’ve begun through First
5 Alabama and to provide these important systems changes in our state,” said Jane Duer, Early
Intervention Coordinator with the Alabama Department of Mental Health, and the lead for the
After the convening, held May 15-17, all involved will participate in a year of “technical
assistance,” working to tackle financing barriers and explore innovative strategies for expanding
access to mental health services for infants, toddlers, and their families.
“Infant and early childhood mental health remains a critical, but often overlooked, policy
challenge,” said Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE. “We know that
children’s earliest experiences – both positive and negative – affect their brain formation. The
period from birth to age 5 is critical to future success. Infants, toddlers, and parents should have
access to appropriate screening, diagnosis, and treatment services to meet their mental health
In late 2016, Congress addressed infant and early childhood mental health for the first time by
including a provision in mental health reform to create grants to support the mental health needs
of very young children. Those grants currently lack funding, but that could change as Congress
addresses the FY18 budget. Meanwhile, states continue to face many challenges in the infant and
early childhood mental health field, including developing and financing assessments,
developmentally appropriate diagnosis, and evidence-informed treatment.
Nine new states and the District of Columbia (DC) will take part in the convening this year. The
ten are: Alabama, D.C., Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, South
Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington. The convening is supported in part by the Irving Harris
Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Alliance for Early Success, and the
University of Minnesota, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services
Mental Health Division.